The Green Bay Packers managed to squeeze out a narrow 24-22 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Christmas Day, and they did so with a few surprise absences popping up throughout the week. Although the trio of Jaire Alexander, David Bakhtiari, and Za’Darius Smith remained out and Kenny Clark returned from the reserve/COVID list, the team saw Marquez Valdes-Scantling show up on the virus list mid-week and cornerback Kevin King added on gameday.
That led to more snaps for a few replacements, as Equanimeous St. Brown took MVS’ snaps as the WR3 on offense. Meanwhile, the Packers stayed out of their dime package for most of the game, but had to put safety Henry Black on the field in the dime DB role when they did line up in that personnel grouping. King had taken over that role from Black last week, and if he returns next week, it will be worth following which player ends up taking those reps against the Vikings.
The Packers’ offense struggled with consistency in the second half, however, and particularly in the fourth quarter. The group gained just two first downs over their final four drives of the game, and one of those came on an offsides penalty drawn by Aaron Rodgers’ hard count to clinch the victory.
Meanwhile, the defense struggled to find any answers for a Browns running game that was picking up big gains throughout the game. Nick Chubb picked up 126 yards and a score on 17 carries, while D’Ernest Johnson had just four carries but took them for 58 yards..
Here’s a look at the playing time from the Packers’ victory.
OFFENSE (59 total plays)
Aaron Rodgers 59
The Packers got a relatively inefficient day from Rodgers on a per-play basis, as his 5.94 yards per attempt was his third-lowest mark of the season behind the Saints and Cardinals games. Still, he threw three touchdowns with no interceptions for a passer rating of 115.1.
Aaron Jones 33, AJ Dillon 26
The two-man rotation at running back continued in this game, though Jones again out-rushed and out-touched Dillon substantially. Jones finished with 12 carries for 66 yards while adding 51 receiving yards on five catches. Dillon, meanwhile, had 41 yards on 9 carries and 15 yards on three receptions.
Davante Adams 55, Allen Lazard 51, Equanimeous St. Brown 48, Juwann Winfree 8
For much of the second quarter, the Packers’ offense was a two-man game between Rodgers and Adams. He caught five passes on one of the touchdown drives, including the scoring play, and finished the game with 114 yards and two scores on 10 total receptions.
With no Marquez Valdes-Scantling available, Lazard got the second-most targets among the receivers, going for 45 yards. He also caught the Packers’ first touchdown of the game, the one that gave Rodgers the franchise record at 443.
St. Brown ended up playing the MVS role in terms of snaps, but was not targeted once in the passing game and carried the football once for a loss of ten yards. Winfree’s lone target was ruled incomplete on the field and upheld on review, even though it appeared that he had his hands underneath the football.
Josiah Deguara 33, Marcedes Lewis 25, Tyler Davis 13, Dominique Dafney 3
Once again, Deguara led the tight ends in snaps, lining up all over the formation. He and Lewis each caught two passes on three targets but for single-digit yardage.
Jon Runyan, Jr. 59, Lucas Patrick 59, Royce Newman 59, Dennis Kelly 59, Yosh Nijman 56, Ben Braden 3
The Packers kept Rodgers largely clean in this game, allowing zero sacks for the first time all season and just four quarterback hits. Myles Garrett was a virtual non-factor, with just one hit and one assisted tackle in the game. Nijman left the game briefly, but was back immediately the next time the Packers offense took the field.
DEFENSE (68 total plays)
Kenny Clark 60, Dean Lowry 52, Tyler Lancaster 34, T.J. Slaton 24, Jack Heflin 4
Clark’s return from the COVID list coincided with a surprise healthy scratch for Kingsley Keke, leading to a big workload for the team’s star nose tackle. This was the fourth game this season that saw Clark hit the 60 snap mark, and the 12th in which he played at least 80 percent of the defensive snaps.
Lowry had one sack in the game, and he was on the field for his second-most snaps of the year (behind only last week, when Clark was out). Meanwhile, Lancaster and Slaton also played some of their highest totals of the season.
However, the line was a mess in the run game, as the Browns racked up 8.8 yards per carry on the ground.
Preston Smith 52, Rashan Gary 50, Tipa Galeai 16, Jonathan Garvin 14
The Packers got excellent production out of their edge group in this game, with three of the four players recording at least one sack. Smith and Galeai each got one while Gary landed a pair plus another QB hit. Baker Mayfield’s mobility was not a major factor in this game, as he carried the ball just twice for 12 yards.
De’Vondre Campbell 68, Krys Barnes 36, Oren Burks 5
Campbell posted another hefty tackle total game on Sunday, with 13 total stops in addition to a pass breakup. Unfortunately, most of those tackles were well downfield in the run game as Nick Chubb and D’Ernest Johnson gashed the Packers all day long. Barnes continued to be on the field for around 50-60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, but struggled to maintain his gap integrity.
Adrian Amos 68, Darnell Savage 68, Henry Black 11
With Kevin King out as a last-minute addition to the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Packers turned back to Black as the dime defensive back. Black’s only two tackles came on special teams, however.
Meanwhile, Savage finished second on the team with eight tackles while adding the Packers’ first interception of the game off Mayfield, and Amos had five tackles.
Rasul Douglas 68, Eric Stokes 68, Chandon Sullivan 50
While the run game struggled, the Packers still got decent production out of their corners, with the Browns’ top three receivers catching ten of 19 targets for 118 yards. Donovan Peoples-Jones particularly struggled, with one catch on six targets for five yards.
Sullivan was the recipient of a gift-wrapped interception from Mayfield, who overthrew Jarvis Landry off his back foot. Douglas picked up his 4th and 5th interceptions of the season, eventually delivering another game-sealing pick with the Browns trying to drive for a go-ahead score.
SPECIAL TEAMS SNAP LEADERS
Black 19, Davis 19, Isaac Yiadom 19, Burks 18, Isaiah McDuffie 18, Galeai 11, Winfree 10